What do you do when you have a bunch of leftovers from a distillery that are too impure to drink? You make ethanol and go racin'!

A handbuilt 1980 Yamaha XS850 land speed racer powered by vodka? What could go wrong?

Ryan Montgomery, owner and operator of Missoula, Montana's Montgomery Distillery, is a man of singular vision. That vision? To run his home-built, Yamaha-based, vodka-fueled land speed racer at the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials and win. Wait, vodka-fueled? Yep, you read that correctly. This bike runs on liquor.

This whole thing started back last winter when Montgomery decided, apparently on a lark, to try his hand at land speed racing. He had everything he needed right at hand—a non-running 1980 Yamaha XS650, the raw materials to make homemade ethanol, and a local Bonneville expert Neil “Mort” Olson to help with the technical racing bits. What about the vodka, though? Turns out that the heads—leftovers from the vodka distilling process that are too impure to drink and are therefore separated from the liquor itself—make a fantastic, clean-burning ethanol.

Willie the shop dog supervises while Montgomery and crew put the finishing touches on Sudden Wisdom.

Willie the shop dog supervises while Montgomery and crew put the finishing touches on Sudden Wisdom.

“We normally discard that,” Montgomery told The Missoulan. “Over the winter, we got the idea to try and power a bike with it.”

So the distillers saved up about ten gallons of heads while Montgomery built the Yamaha into a lands speed racer. That was a pretty interesting task for a guy who never built a race bike, or even gone racing, before. Surprisingly, the only major change the bike needed to run on the vodka-based ethanol was some fiddling and re-jetting of the carbs. With the help of friends and sponsors, Montgomery built the bike's bodywork, gave it a paint job, and finally named it "Sudden Wisdom", a nod to the distillery's rye whiskey.

Montgomery is running Sudden Wisdom this week, August 25 to 30, at the 2018 Bonneville Speed Trials in the 750cc partially-modified bikes 1980 or older with alternate fuel class. His target is 98 miles per hour. We wish him and his crew lots of luck and we'll make sure to have a few stiff drinks to celebrate if he manages to hit his target.

Source: The Missoulan

Photos: Kurt Wilson/The Missoulan